“Hot one out there today,” Sam Elliott tells me in that voice — that bass-y growl softened by his Oregonian twang. He’s exactly what you’d expect from his movies, only not so laconic. He’s talkative and not afraid to bridge certain subjects — say, the topic of abortion, which fuels his new film. In “Grandma,” Lily Tomlin plays a poet trying to procure a safe procedure for her granddaughter (Julia Garner). Elliott plays one Tomlin’s old flames, still hurting that she left him decades before for another woman. Imagine all of his responses in his signature, euphonious drawl.
There aren’t a ton of films that deal with aging in a serious way. This and “I’ll See You in My Dreams,” with you and Blythe Danner, are definitely exceptions.
I just think these things are an honest slice of life. Brett Haley [director], on “I’ll See You On My Dreams,” people would ask him what kinds of films he wants to make. And he always basically said he wants to make films about real life. That’s what I think this thing is too. It’s an honest portrayal of somebody that’s experienced love and loss and is moving on in spite of it all — until the granddaughter comes knocking on the door in search of an abortion. Kind of a contentious issue debated in this moment of time.
I imagine the parts of the country won’t take to a film that, in its first five minutes, offers a lesbian character with a younger girlfriend trying to help her granddaughter get an abortion.
I’m anxious to see in the course of this press tour how often that’s going to come up. It’s such a polarizing subject, thanks to the Planned Parenthood “expose” — for lack of a better word. Paul [Weitz, “Grandma”’s director], he’s not bitin’. He’s not bitin’ when someone brings it up. Because it’s not really what the movie’s about. Politics is not what drove Paul to write this thing.
This would have probably been a studio film at some point, but the market’s changed. Now slices of life tend to be almost exclusively in the indies.
I’ve certainly noticed that. But there’s such a market for good independent films. Those types of filmmakers have to go elsewhere to tell their stories. If the big studios aren’t going to do it, they can do it on their own. Things like Kickstarter get things rolling. Not that you can bankroll and entire film with them, but it’s a start. You can’t keep a good film down.
“I’ll See You In My Dreams” quietly made a few million dollars in theaters, even when it was on VOD. So there’s an audience for these films.
There’s always an audience — an audience that’s crying for intelligent, entertaining stuff. If I can go to a theater and be entertained, and I can cry and laugh at the same movie, then what the f—, man? That is the ultimate. Because we’re in the entertainment business. You can ask, “What did you take away from that experience?” And you can maybe be enlightened or educated. It’s like this whole abortion issue. Maybe you walk away from it saying, “Well, they didn’t really deal with the pros and cons of it.” But there is a moment where Lily looks at her granddaughter and says, “You’re going to think about this every day of your life.” Somebody says that to you, you know that it’s something worth considering. It’s a very difficult decision. I come on the side that the government’s got no business telling women what to do with their physicality. I’m very much pro-choice. But enough about politics, even though I keep bringing it up.